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Sitting Docs Have Happier Patients
Date:4/7/2010

People perceive physicians stay longer when they aren't standing, study finds

WEDNESDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to doctor-patient relationships, new research suggests that patients would be happier if their doctors would just sit down and stay awhile.

And for doctors, taking a seat doesn't necessarily have to add time to their day. The researchers found that when doctors sat down during a hospital visit, patients thought the doctors had stayed longer than they actually had.

"Patients perceived that sitting physicians were in the room about 40 percent longer than they were," said the study's senior author, Dr. Paul Arnold, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

"And, after a while, we started noticing that the patients had almost no negative comments about the physicians who would sit down," Arnold added. "So, there was both a quantitative and qualitative difference in patients' perception."

Dr. Ronald Epstein, director of the Rochester Center to Improve Communication in Healthcare at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said he wasn't surprised by the finding.

"This is in the lore of medical training," Epstein said. "During school, we're told that it really changes the dynamic of interactions." But until now, he said, there's hasn't really been any research to support the idea.

"It's important to put yourself at the same level as your patient," he said. "For a patient, it can be a frightening, disempowering feeling to have a group of people standing over you," referring to what can happen in teaching hospitals when a group of doctors enters a patient's room.

"Sitting down is a gesture of accommodation, similar to smiling," Epstein said. "I think patients do appreciate it, and that it allows them to express their concerns more openly."

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